Maghera history trail.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming along to the Maghera history trail. My name is Joseph McCoy and I will be your guide and trail leader, I am currently employed with my local education board and am a learning amateur historian. I am also a published author.
When one thinks of Maghera or (Machaire ratha luraigh) in its original Gaelic text, which means the plain of Lurach’s rath. I have always thought of Maghera in its early establishment rather like a cartwheel. The old church being the hub and axel and the rest of the buildings being raised around it like the spokes, the boundaries themselves changing from year to year making up the last important part of the wheel the rim.
It is widely believed that maghera was established in the fifth century by St. Lurach.
This old building and area have witnessed attack from the Vikings; it has played its part in the nine years war and walked its road through the plantation era and seen the town evacuated during the events that lead to the siege of Derry and the battle of the Boyne.
It has seen the uniforms belonging to the united Irish men, Ayrshire yeomanry and the Londonderry militia to name a few.
Lurach himself was said to be descended from royal blood, the monarch of Ireland Colla Uais who died in 331ad. Lurach was a prince, a landowner who could benefit the church, and was ideally placed to be an influence on those who came into contact with him and probably convinced many of his subordinates to convert to Christianity.St Lurach built churches at Derryloran (Cookstown) and Maghera.
Lurach himself is said to be buried not far from the tower at this very spot.
Maghera was also a monastic sight and I can only imagine their daily routine of early prayer, planting and harvesting crops and collecting honey from the bees. Their other artistic projects including the manufacture of many beautiful manuscripts, tin smiths and metallurgy which enabled them to make many of their beautiful chalices and alter wear.
Stunning crosses with semi precious stones studded into them, aloof and glistening to the glory of god. There is further proof of the monastic site; tradition among the good Presbyterian people of maghera is that when they built their church in 1785 on the site of the ancient monastery, this fact is substantiated when they found the remains of a subterranean chamber while digging the foundations of the Kirk. In the western side of the church remain the ramparts of a rath which probably gave maghera its name (the plain of lurches rath, rath meaning fort.) Also close by to the church would have been what was locally called the holy well of St. Lurach, which was said to have healing qualities and it is said that it could also be store he who drank from it the gift of long life. And in an odd turn it was also supposed to have the power to make those who drank from the holy well have an overpowering want to never leave maghera, our own lotus eaters I believe as far as my history reminds me, lol!!!
In the National Museum in Dublin are held on display a wax tablet taken from a bog near the town in the early 1840s, it is though this book dates from the late medieval period and contained scribbling in latten by a student of logic, and throws in the direction of thought that latin was in widespread use at that time in Maghera by the monks. The second object is the Maghera bell; this bell was unearthed in 1923 and was though locally to be of ancient date but was more likely to be a Tyrolean or alpine bell of relatively recent date and of little value.
But in my own opinion the article in the treasury of a London museum is of the most importance a tiny silver crucifix which disappeared from its resting place from saint lurachs grave in the spring of 1829.
The carpenter Alex Hipson will tell the story, “I was in the employment of the Reverend James Spencer Knox rector of the parish of Maghera, when one morning, having occasion to pass the old graveyard on my way from the glebe house to the town of Maghera to buy nails, I met two persons dressed like gentlemen in the graveyard; one of them had a paper in his hands on which there was writing.
He asked me if I was a native of the town. I said I was. He then inquired if there was a grave in the churchyard in which saint Lowry was buried. I said, yes; I had often heard of it. He again asked if it had a black whinstone for a head-stone. I told him it had. He looked at the paper, and bid the other gentleman to come along. We went together to the grave, which I pointed out.
The same gentleman took a rule out of his pocket, measured the grave, and compared what was written on the paper with it and the head stone. At his request I got him a spade from James Cassidy, who was planting potatoes in the adjoining field. On handing him the spade he gave me half a crown piece. And said to me and Thomas Quinn who had just come up. That we might go and have a glass. We went to Billy Crockets’, had a glass, and after paying for it, divided what was left on the half crown between us. I then went to Harry Porter, the nailer, got the nails, and returned through the graveyard, and there found the two gentlemen filling up a hole in the grave that appeared to be two and a half feet long, and two feet broad; I don’t know the depth.
On the grass there was a handkerchief spread out; a blast of wind blew it up, and I saw underneath a cross, which might have been about 18 inches long. The gentlemen then left, bringing the cross away, and I saw no more of them. I began to think I should tell Mr Knox and went to the hall door for that purpose; he was not in the house. Half an hour after I returned and found him in his study, and told him what had occurred. He immediately sent me to the hotel, then kept by mister falls, to inquire about the men who had taken the cross. He said they had gone sometime, but whether to moneymore, or to magherafelt he could not say. I then returned to Mr Knox, and directly set out in pursuit with him in his gig to Magherafelt. We could not hear of them, but got a fresh horse, and proceeded to moneymore with no better success. Came back by Desertmartin to Magherafelt hoping to meet with them; Mr Knox had previously desired the hotel keeper in Magherafelt to have them detained if they should make there appearance there. Mr Knox told me afterwards that he had reason to believe they had gone to Dungiven, and that Mr Falls had misled them. He expressed great displeasure at his conduct. So my friends all that are left of St. Lurch are this headstone and a small silver crucifix.
It is reckoned that Maghera for give or take three hundred years was a hamlet of piece and relative harmony that is until one day in the year of 831 Rath Luraigh fell to the Vikings. If one could imagine the bow of the longboat’s cutting through the calm waters of the river Bann sliding up and being anchored to the shore from a tree, men jumping off. Resilient in their chain mail armour and helmets. Armed with broad swords bows and arrows and axes. They made their way through the country side cutting down all who opposed them, finally when they made their way towards maghera we do know that Maghera fell to them and according to other accounts this is probably what happened the church was singled out and the monks put to the sword or the blade of an axe, the church goods were then pillaged. The mind boggles at the treasures of religious and artistic value which went back to the baron Scandinavian landscape with their holders. The beautiful crosses studded with semi precious stones and finely worked scroll work engraved upon them the manuscripts with their detailed work taking many hours to complete.
We know because it is recorded in the Irish annals. They were led by a man called Turgesius; Turgesius was a ruthless and determined leader of his men. Motivated by the uncontrollable desire of gold, plunder and possibly slaves Turgesius was also called turgeis, tuirgeis, turgeis and finally thoryest. Though it is not clear whether the name is represented in the Old Norse as thurgestr or thorgisi. Because there is no record of local account it is assumed that all were killed, if they were lucky they were away hunting or had seen them before they entered the monastery and managed to get away and make good their concealment. As would we all. It has always entered the mind that the reason that the tunnels are in existence might be because of the systematic sacking of the church, as a defence or get away for the monks. The sole reliable record of Turgesius is the report of his death in the annals of Ulster. In 845 he was captured by Ma’el sechnill mac ma’ele ruanaid of the clan cholmain and drowned in Lough Owel. Less certainly, the annals of the four masters associate Turgesius with attacks on Connaght, Mide, and the church at Clonmacnoise in the year before his death.
It is also speculated that he may have been the Norse ruler that Yahva bn-hakam el bckrial djavan was ambassador to. Just to put this into perspective Turgesius is said to have been converted to Christianity before they cast him into the waters. The Viking threat was finally neutralised when Brain Boru won the battle of Clontarf in 1014, and so it seemed that Maghera and so many others would be spared the insult of being burned again. Unfortunately Rath-luraigh was subsequently burned in the spring of 1135 during a medieval Gaelic intertribal dispute, tactically when warring factions fought and gained ground they would burn what the enemy held close to their hearts unfortunately in this case st lurachs. If you can see the masonry work it is said that you can see the fire damage of the subsequent burning of the church and its surrounding buildings in the year of A.D. 1135 .
If you open the tower doors and venture in what you will find hidden away is a crucifixion scene carved into stone, this old carving of the crucifixion is believed to date from the ninth century. Shortly after the Vikings destroyed the old wooden church which stood on the site of the present one. This ancient lintel has been studied by the a few of the best authorities in Irish architecture and have all been unanimous in praising its magnificence, one American professor, kingsley porter of Harvard, has gone so far as to say that the Maghera doorway is the most developed representation of the crucifixion i know in Ireland.
Ladies and gentlemen if we look carefully you will notice that in this crucifixion scene Judas Iscariot is of course missing as is the soldiers Longinus and eugitianus who according to Celtic Christology assisted at the crucifixion. The tower itself was erected sometime in the 1690s in order to accommodate a bell and perhaps the rector; it was originally surmounted by a wooden spire and replaced an earlier Romanesque building. It appears that the last repairs and renovations were made in the year 1790, just thirty years before it was abandoned. During the penal times the church also witnessed the exploits of a one, friar ban the strolling priest who lived during the penal times and is said to be buried in the churchyard of st lurachs. The priest was born on the 1673 and died in the year 1746 no doubt worn out by work and long years of service. He was born Dominick Brullaughan, why he was called ‘friar ban’ still remains much of a mystery one train of thought is the Dominican habit he wore in secret or perhaps was the colour of his hair. Or possibly that he belonged to the community of Coleraine which was called the bann convent from the river bann.
Strangely enough there are lists of names of those soles buried at the old church witch are categorised in three ways.
(English) Anderson, Brown, Clark, Collins, Drips, Clarnon, Cunningham, Forbes, Greton, Hughes, Hull, Kyle, Miller, Marlin, Richardson, Wilson, Young, Harrell, Higgins, Ruddle, Cuddy, Morris, Lemon.
(Scotch) Barklie, Campbell, Cuddy, Dunlop, Dougall, McCrackin, Getty, Graham, Johnston, Gilmay, Keelt, McKee, Manolly, McCready, Patterson, Stewart, Thompson, McCook.
(Irish) Bradley, Brevolaghan, McCluskey, O’Donnelly, O’Dougherty, Diamond, Crilly, Convery, McCollaugh, McCann, McGuire, McGlade, Hassin, Hendy, Higgins, O’Kendry, Kelly, McKenna, Hagan, Lagan, Manelly, Muholland, O’Neill, McPake, McLeigney, Sheil.
And so ladies and gentlemen, many of the surnames which have been read out would be familiar to you, in some cases your own surname. And in some respects the people who are alive and living and working in maghera are perhaps not so different from the people who are buried here once were, and make up as I once put it earlier terms the rim of the wheel, the movable boundaries.
As we head out of the church we will make our way down past the dead lane and over to the Presbyterian meeting house, during the year of 1798, and after the defeat of the united Irish men. The town was garrisoned by a detachment of the Ayrshire yeomanry and a detachment from the Londonderry militia; the militia were billeted in the church of st lurachs and the Ayrshire’s in the meeting house which was the former parish church of the united Irish man the reverend john glendy. John glendy was born 1755 and died in 1832,
The revd glendy was one of about thirty ministers and licentiates who were more or less implicated in the rebellion of 1798. Glendy himself was saved a fate worse than death when friends warned him of the approach of the yeomanry; his house on vesper hill was burned by the yeomen commanded by colonel Leith. He stayed hidden at a place called the grove with a man called Wilson which was situated less than a quarter mile from watty grahams house on the crew hill. He managed to make it to Derry from his second hideaway in moneyneena. He was eventually captured and exiled to America; in 1806 glendy was chosen to be the chaplain to the House of Representatives in congress and then to the senate in 1815 to 1816. He died aged 77 in Philadelphia and was buried in Baltimore in the Glendy cemetery, on the 4h of October 1832 after a painful illness.The church you see before you was built in the year 1835 and sits on the location of the old one which burned down in 1798. It is said that church was built in 1775. And before that a church existed which was located on the fair hill.
Just a final thought, there is a photograph I have seen of the front of this church, surrounded by trees and looking completely different the photo must be at least one hundred years old, and what struck me as I looked at them the change that time renders from a building.
As we move on we will be using one of the newest roads in the town and is therefore only being used as a shortcut st lurachs road, were we will head to Hall Street. Hall street was originally called Brewery Lane and was changed by a one Colonel James Jackson Clarke as a tribute to his wife whose maiden name was Hall. Colonel Stephenson’s wife was a Largantogher Clarke who lived at Fortwilliam. He was the landlord of the property of Ballinascreen. Out of a matter of interest, he was the Colonel who stood on the Moyola Bridge and discouraged his tenants from joining the ranks of the united Irish men in 1798. The brewery that gave Hall Street it’s name is located behind the barbers and from what I have been told, it was a small part of the brewery and other parts coincidently of the brewery mechanisms were located on parts of Fairhill and in the building were old McNicholls hotel is located. Behind us a wall would have run the length between old Selfridges right up into the side of Mr Thompson’s house.
Matt Regans we of course know, and many a night I frequented it. The houses to the right are also Regans which was formerly a hotel and run by a Limavady family called the McNicholls, the building just below it was a former Methodist church and stopped being used. The army used it as a barracks during the second world war and it as garrisoned by a welsh contingent (as a point of interest they were also billeted in the Masonic hall on on Station road and out at Carlton’s were McLean’s are now). After the war the church was used as a Presbyterian youth center and was run by Rev McAilrath, about sixty years ago. The church then passed into the hands of the McKinleys. I would also like to say that I grew up in and around Hall Street and the bustle of all the different trades’ men and goings on; the street is more or less empty compared to what it would have been like one hundred years ago. The building on the corner holds the most sentiment for me for although not the original it still holds the original name, Victoria house. This is the house that I was reared in and thankfully had my childhood adventures and memories, good ones it is also the house that gave me an interest in history and my sense of being a maghera man. Victoria house was also used as an ‘A’ special barracks during the 1916 to 1922 period and was previously owned by the Clarks and was formerly known as Maghera House. As we make our way towards fairhill we will pass the old sight of the Presbyterian assembly hall.
If we now make our way along the Fairhill car park and in that general direction we will continue our history trail. As we pass the site of the old assembly hall which is now George McKee’s car park, those who remember the layout of the Fairhill will remember the single pedestrian entrance which led into the back of Regans snooker club and Hannah O’Donnell’s walled garden with the orchard, as we walk on up the hill we will see the beautiful old building which is called fairhill house, I will now take the liberty and read an extract from the ordnance survey memories of Ireland, the old wind mill is situated on a rock at the cow glen and ceased to work in around 1790. And was at that time used in the grinding of malt, chiefly for distilleries, as at that time distilleries were in Maghera. In 1823 it was converted into a barrack for foot soldiers, who only remained init for a year. The windmill is three storeys high and the walls are three foot wide, the diameter of the mill is fifteen feet wide on the inside. But by 1830 was in a state of disrepair and was inhabited by 8 poor females who were placed there for shelter by MRS Clark of Maghera, wife to the proprietor.
On the 12th of June 1823 a party fight took place at the June fair of Maghera commenced by a man called dellagan, we now know this locally to be called the fighting June fair. Dellagan who purchased from David Kennedy a grocer, one ounce of tobacco and would not pay for it, as a result four people were killed and seventeen were seriously wounded. A few days later after the fight a military force consisting of foot and horse were stationed in maghera, the foot in the mill and the horse in billets through out the town. Many more were said to have been killed and taken off in secret. Preparations for a fight were made on the 12th July 1830 but were suppressed by rector and the magistrates. Out of curiosity the magistrates names were John Stevenson esquire of Tobermore and James Clark esquire of Maghera and in Maghera a chief constable of police resided along with eight men. All over Ulster scenes were playing out like his one between the Orangemen and the Ribbon men as a new formularised part of out past.
The fort on fairhill would previously been known as Jonny Tailors, and now is owned by Column Kelly. Now the Presbyterian old church was where the right hand quarter of where McKee’s factory is and the barracks was where fairhill house is now located.
If you gaze over were the new housing estate now is, that is were the old national school was located and behind it its playing field, which rightly enough I have heard the older generation call it the mill field. Directly across from the national school was a narrow lane and down it would have been the main brewery which was still in operation in the 1830s and from this, Brewery Lane got its name. as we make our way towards the old national hall keep in mind in this immediate area there was a hedge school, and also it is said to be were the old cattle market took place. At the top of Fairhill sits the national hall, the national hall is believed to have been built in 1908, which started off as two small rooms and a large hall area and a ladies and gents toilet, now the national hall was originally built by the ancient order of Hibernians which was leased for 9 hundred and 99 years at 5 d per week, for one reason or another the ownership of the national hall passed into the parish in 1912 who built it into the structure we all know today. as we make our way towards the old lane that runs into the back of the old court house, we see the saint Mary’s chapel which was preceded by a art deco style structure that was almost a beautiful piece of living sculpture. In turn was preceded by the St. Mary’s oratory that was first opened on May 11th 1952 by Bishop Neil Farren. Beside the chapel is the euro spar, and is the former sight of the Maghera cinema, on Jan the 1st 1936 the picture house opened for the first time on New Year’s Day. The area which the chapel and parking area currently lay was once a single row of houses.
The old court house was built from a mixture of black stone and sandstone and had thirteen steps up to it. The old maghera courthouse was a general petty sessions court, so summonses and light sentences, along with local disputes would have been heard here, to give you an idea of the type of activity here is a list of court proceedings for the year 1835: settled no appearance 82, dismissed 80, fined in different sums 76, referred to arbitration 14, information taken 18, bound over to keep the peace 2, settled by the court 14, no jurisdiction 6, total of numbered cases during the year 304. The most frequently committed offence if you could believe it was the theft of turf, on a note of interest, I also came across an interesting statement in the ordinance memoirs which reads, the coining of base money is a crime strongly suspected to be practised here the counterfeit money is well known here, attached to this statement there is a footnote which reads the delinquents have as yet escaped detection. There is an old tail which is associated with the courthouse the older generation have always said that faces could be made out of the wall in one case, was supposed to be that of a nun, and other people claim to have seen the faces of loved ones.
We will now make our way towards the entry which will lead us onto the main st.
Some of you will remember the O’Hara’s pub and armours hardware store and across the road there is Kearney’s pub and then sonny McKenna’s the barber who by coincidence was my great uncle. We will then make our way towards Victoria house.
Victoria house was one of the oldest houses in maghera and I have heard it said it dated from the 1750s there are many old tales associated with this old house; one in particular has always stuck in my mind is a tale that Owen Walsh once old me that a local man was once lifted during the 1916 period and interrogated, his interrogator was an inexperienced young lieutenant who was quickly running out of patience and then in a fit of anger told the man “you are going to tell me everything now”, with that he pulled out his pistol from his holster and fired a shot through the ceiling, the man who was being interrogated calmly looked up and said “young man the only thing I do know at the moment is by all the shouting and thumping I hear coming from upstairs, id say that you probably have shot your commanding officer in the foot.
We will know make our way over towards the old house of Charles Thomson.
Charles Thomson was born on the 29 of November 1729 in the parish of maghera in the county of Derry. It is believed that he was born in this very building the late john Walsh father of Owen Walsh was born it the maghera inn now known as washes in the year 1870 and often told Owen that this was the house he was born in as well as being corroborated by the last owner Mr Thomas J McKinney through the process of deeds legality the title of this building I am informed date back to 1750 and have been directly associated with Charles Thompson’s father. And there is also an other line of thought regarding his home stead in an article in the northern constitution written on 6th may 1939 that Mr Henry stated that the old homestead of the Thompson’s was were Mr Nelson lives at present, just alongside the railway line, down the first lane to the right, on the road going east from cross keys sheddings, in the townland of Gorteade, parish of Maghera. To what ever end, he spent time at both premises during his first ten years in Ireland before emigrating, after his wife died and when his son was ten years old John Thompson emigrated to America with his family of six children- William, Matthew, Alexander, Charles, John and Mary.
I have always wondered what went through John’s mind as he crossed over the road at the top of Carntogher’s slopes and though of what lay ahead for him and his motherless children, on his way to Derry port. In America he soon excelled in his studies and in 1750 he was appointed a tutor at Philadelphia academy through the efforts of a one doctor Benjamin Franklin who was first to recognise the young Irishman’s sterling qualities. His fame as an author of Greek and Latin was recognised in Europe, his translation of the Septuagint (the version in Hellenistic Greek of the Old Testament) Charles Thompson was involved in the peace negotiations with the Delaware Indians, and as a friend to them earned the name (wegh-wu-law-mo-end’) which translates the man who tells the truth. The name which followed him into congress, Charles was in contact with Benjamin Franklin when he was in London working on the repeal act, for the tax without representation so he in a way had his finger on the pulse of the country’s going on. From the first movements against oppressive British laws he was a tireless worker for colonial rights.
The war of independence began at Lexington in 1775 when the British suffered a defeat at the hands of their colonists but won a victory at Bunker Hill. George Washington was of old Virginia stock and was chosen to be commander in chief of the rebel forces, and the united congress on July 4th 1776, passed the declaration of independence, the original draft which is in the handwriting of Charles Thompson.
Taking into mind the draft of the declaration of independence was largely the work of Jefferson, the declaration of independence was first read to the American people by John Nixon the son of a Waterford man, and it was first printed and published by John Dunlap, formerly of Strabane in county Tyrone. It is also thought he was responsible for designing the great seal of the United States also as a mater of interest some of the latten script on the one dollar bill was also penned by Charles Thompson.
Charles Thompson died without issue on the 16 day of August 1824 aged 95 years, his remains were interred in the Laurel Hill cemetery Philadelphia, the inscription on his grave reads, ‘the enlightened benefactor of his country in its day of peril and need. His memorial and just honours are inscribed in the pages of his country’s history’.
Or as some know it, the inn of Maghera, is one of the oldest establishments in the town of Maghera. Walshes, I believe is the beating heart of the community, regardless of what circumstance or tally one finds himself in, walshes was founded by a one Jack O’Neill and thus is were jacks bar gets its name. a lucky strike brought jack O’Neill, as he was spoken of locally into the possession of this property. A poor boy, he had been herding on the farm were he found the treasure trove which has given its name to it, silver hill.
In the latter half of the eighteenth century, William Ireland, wealthy lawyer (rara avis), lived in the town of Ballygawley, County Tyrone. Under his will “Signed, Sealed, Published and Delivered” on the 30th September, 1770, he devised and bequeathed the bulk of his estate in trust for his daughter Elizabeth, a minor. To his nephew John Falls, he left the house occupied by John’s father, Alexander, conditionally on the boy changing his surname to Ireland, which he did not do. The Testator also bequeathed to him “the sum of twenty pounds in order to assist him to get himself admitted as an Attorney.” A man named Alexander Falls, either son or grandson of the Alexander previously mentioned, came to Maghera and married one of four daughters of Jack O’Neill and they had at least two of a family, a girl and a boy. The son, James O’Neill Falls, became an Attorney and practiced in Maghera. Jack’s second girl became the wife of James Walsh of Charity Street (now Rainey Street), Magherafelt, whilst the third wed Dr. Cassidy of Maghera. There were two children of the Cassidy marriage, a boy and a girl. The son became a doctor and practiced in Harley Street. The daughter entered into religious life at the age of twenty-two and lived to be ninety-six years old. She joined the Sisters of Mercy at Birr. Mother Catherine as she was known in religion was one of the pioneers trained by Mother McAulay, founder of an order which is now scattered up and down the country.
Romance was of the highest order for Jack O’Neill’s fourth daughter. In the “Trouble Year,” a troop of cavalry was one day passing along the narrow main street of our town. Riding at its head was the commanding officer, Colonel Leith, by his side the second in command, Captain Lamont. As the party of yeomen came abreast of the Inn, the handsome soldier caught sight of a fair damsel, who had come to watch from a second storey window, almost on a level with the horsemen. The gallant captain’s Interest was rewarded with an encouraging smile, which drew from him a remark to his Superior Officer, “Sir! If that young lady isn’t already married she will be my wife.” So she did, as appears in the local marriage register, Church of Ireland, “May 23rd Ca Frans Lamont of the Aberdeenshire Invincibles to Miss Ann O’Neile of Maghera.” They were laid to rest in the graveyard at Glen.
Just to add a note of interest Alexander falls was given permission to carry one musket two pistols and a sword, a difficult concession to gain in those days. By colonel Leith out of interest Alexander’s brother Tomas falls was accused of consorting with and assisting the united Irish men. a man called Shane McKenna was blamed of harboring falls and would give nothing away to his interrogators, after which he was arrested and escorted back to maghera but subsequently escaped close to the old flax dam in the townland of carrowmenagh and no order was given for pursuit and he escaped. I have always thought it must be quite an oddity to be pursued by your niece’s husband.
An other point of interest is the black stone mounting block on the corner of the hotel, is a landmark and still has its census mark on it if you look carefully. The corner stone as it is locally know was used as a means to mount your horse and would have came in handy to the wives who rode pillion on the back of the horse with their husbands.
It is also remembered that on the 7th of June 1798 a one father Matthew McCosker PP administered the last rights to a dieing man on the corner stone at the hotel corner. And was on good terms with captain Lamont, between then they came up with a plan for the local inhabitance to disarm and leave their arms at a house out at glen and so great was the appeal that the weapons and gunpowder had to be stored in the dry arch of galwilly bridge or McKay’s bridge as we know it now. But now a day is only used for a hot day and lighting the feet for a rest.
An other daughter of the O’Neill’s married Alexander falls, a son of theirs, john O’Neill falls became one of the first catholic attorneys in Ireland after emancipation. He served his apprenticeship in a Belfast office to a man who became the leader of the English bar, Charles Russell. The hotel was left by the by the falls family to a son in law, surgeon Peter Henry, who served in the Royal Navy in the battleships, trident, Abercrombie, bell isle and Northumberland, from whose commander a rear admiral, and was given the following testimonial, a most correct officer and a perfect gentleman. Surgeon Peter Henry attended napoleon on SSt. Helena. In recognition the little Corsican rewarded him with a ring that passed into the heirlooms of the Henrys in Australia along with the original and only known portrait of Own Roe O’Neill. Peter in turn, left the hotel to his daughter Alicia, who subsequently sold it to her cousin Louis Walsh. The Marquess family eventually purchased the hotel and ran it until 1993, when the present owners bought it.
All that is mentioned in the ordinance memoirs about walshes is having two stories and that Alexander falls was the proprietor at that time also in interest the inn of maghera is were the annalist and observers O’Donovan and Dalton, who partly compiled the survey memoirs for the government stayed during their long work and research.
Walshes has had a long and checkered past and has been known by other names for example Jeffrey’s house and the new kiln it had attached a stockyard and a garden for the vegetables and other edible goods.
“Tobair Loraigh” (Lowrys Well) which sprang up in answer to the Saints prayers during a period of terrible drought is situated down an entry in the middle of the town, and nobody reared in Maghera but has not often drunk of its clear waters, let the stranger beware however lest he drink of those waters too freely, for if he drinks thrice of them his life there after will be tortured by a desire to go back to Maghera “Like the Lotus eaters” sang an old ballad first and forsake home and kindred for old Maghera. We who are exiles from the beloved little town cannot help ourselves, but the visitor tied to hearth and home elsewhere was foolish to add to his unsatisfied desires and should see that even his tea is never made more than once from those alluring waters. Once a man of the Planters stood mocking at what he regarded as old women’s stories and determined to improve his property filled the holy well in but broke out almost immediately on the other side of the street and when filled in there it burst forth at the original place with a white fish thrashing its limpid waters so the unbeliever was conquered by the power of the dead saint and henceforth left the well unmolested. It is difficult to pin down the location of the well because of the amount of believed varied locations I was once told that it was in the right back corner of Walshes and that it also resided behind a bar on the left side of main st and then again on the right, personally I believe that the well is currently ether at the back of the cinema or unfortunately its been built over and the cinema sits directly on top of it.
(The market house)
I would like to read out a united Irish catechism to give you all an idea of the international connection
What have you got in your hand?
A green brogh
Where did it first grow?
Where did it bud?
Where are you going to plant it?
In the crown of Great Britain.
When you hear this quote it brings to bare the situation of the time the war of independence had lost the UK its largest colony and the revolution in France which on top of the religious reforms led to the united Irish conflict, the market house has always been associated with the united Irish man, whatty graham. The market house was originally made of stone and lime and was thatched with heather, and at some point was accidentally burnt down. It was used primarily for the sale of linen, but had other secondary offshoots of business. Watty (Walter) Graham was son of James Graham, session’s clerk of the presbytery, James Graham is said to be buried in the north east corner of the graveyard in st lurachs, being a man of intelligence, education and culture he was chosen to represent the Presbyterians of the district at synods held in Dublin. These periodical visits I am sure helped foster in him the growing revolutionary spirit of the times, besides in all probability bringing him into contact with the leaders of the movement. To cut short a long story after the failed uprising whatty was betrayed by a one Mr. Church, while collecting a debt of monies from Mr. Church, he was invited to stay while the man went to lift the amount which he owed watty.
A reward of Five Hundred Pounds was offered for the capture of Watty Graham. Taking leave of his family, he set off for Magilligan intending to cross to Moville where a passage had been arranged for him to America. On his way he stopped at the house of people named McKenna where he was given food. Hot on his trail, the soldiers called there and not being satisfied with the explanation given, they burned this house which was the birth place of Father John McKenna who later erected Glen Chapel wherein he is buried. A plaque to his memory can be seen in the chapel. The fugitive stopped at the Rectory of Tamlaght (Magilligan) with the intention of collecting part of a debt of Four Hundred Pounds owed to him by its occupant a Mr. Church, possibly the same Mr. Church referred to in letter from Bob Lowry. This man seeing in Graham’s difficulties a means of ridding himself of his liability and at the same time earning the reward, made the excuse to his Creditor of having to go to a friend in Maghera for the money. In reality he turned informer. A servant girl in his employment overheard remarks made by him to his wife and suspected treachery. Before he left, Church swore her to secrecy.
The next day or so, during dinner which consisted of potatoes, herring and sweet milk, the maid endeavored to warn Graham. When leaving the fish on the table she remarked “A herring was never caught for its belly.” Putting down a jug of milk and tumbler she said “A herring was never taken on bait.” Watty appeared to miss the first hint but he replied to the second “Girl! You mean something by that.” In distress the girl ran to the window, looked out and shouted “Colonel! The Soldiers are coming.” They could be seen approaching through a wood at the rear of the rectory. In a field at the front of the house some workmen were digging potatoes. Graham ran over to them saying.” Men I’m betrayed.” He called a slip of a lad. “Young fellow! “Said he “give me that shovel and run.” The youth put on Watty’s coat and ran as he had been told. Church, the Officer Commanding and the soldiers followed him. The rector quickly observed that one of the men wore a linen shirt whilst the others had calico. He recognized Graham and told the soldiers “Take the man with the linen shirt.”
Less than a year after this betrayal Mr. Church got a message to attend a lady parishioner on her death bed. He saddled his horse and set off. Within a few minutes his riderless horse came galloping home, the rector had been bludgeoned .to death at the entrance to his own avenue.
“Then I took my journey where I was not known, and quickly departed into Innishowen,
But I was soon apprehended for being a strange man, and taken I was on Magilligan Strand,”
Taken I was and brought into Coleraine, and there in cold irons for to remain,
Till a party of soldiers came from Maghera
They told Watty Grimes he’s to die by the law.”
The traditional belief is that Watty Graham was hanged on the big beech tree which stood in the corner of the Rectory Grounds next Church Street until it was blown down in a storm on the 21st September, 1946, I have also been told that the place of execution was the entry between what was then the Market House and the house below it on Main Street. My informant said that here on a chair swung on chains between the buildings sat a Linen Tester who passed or rejected the webs of linen handed up to him from the weaver’s carts beneath him. It is thought that Graham may have been hanged from this contraption. The bleeding head was put on a pike and given to a half wit Charles Cassidy to carry through the streets and, to proclaim to the people “Behold the head of the Traitor” but the poor man confused his lines and stammered instead “Behold the head of the Creathur.” The bleeding head was afterwards spiked on the Market House.
A direct descendant of Watty Graham informed me that his relations hold the traditional belief, that on the night of the execution his mangled corpse was taken either by arrangement or by force from the single soldier who guarded it and buried near Culnady. When times became more tranquil, it was exhumed and stealthily re-interred in “The Old Churchyard.” Fear of discovery, prevented the erection of a headstone over the grave which is said to be marked by an uninscribed slab.
Arthur Kingsley Porter, late of Harvard University, says the most developed representation of the Crucifixion I know in Ireland is on the portal of the Church at Maghera.” How fitting then it is that the mortal remains of our Patriot should lie in the shadow of this sacred scene awaiting the Resurrection call of Him who was Himself betrayed.
At the foot of the gates we find a picturesque sight of the rectory avenue with beautiful trees lining and dotted throughout the gently rising landscape, across were the parish hall now stands was the original site of the old school, a black stone building, as recorded in the ordinance surveys The principal school in the parish is in the town of Maghera. It is built on glebe land, an acre of which has been alienated by deed by the present incumbent for the purpose of education. Its erection cost 400 pounds, which sum was raised as follows:
Grant from the Kildare Street Society 100 pounds, from the Mercers’ Company 125 pounds, local subscriptions 175 pounds. It can accommodate 100 of each sex; the general attendance is 80 boys and 50 girls. As we veer back towards the rectory entrance, I would like to mention the case of a local man called William Cuddy. Local tradition suggests that Billy Cuddy another rebel managed to cheat the gallows, a friendly soldier having cut him down when half hanged. To deceive the authorities a mock funeral was staged and in the graveyard of St. Lurach’s, Maghera, for all to see is a weather beaten stone with its strange inscription “The Burying Place of William Cuddy.” I am however personally inclined to place more faith in Reverend Professor Witherow’s version of this story given in his Cook Centenary Commerative Address (page II in which he says that “Another case excited much commiseration at the time, because according to local tradition, the victim was quite innocent of any complicity in the movement. He was a man of humble rank, by religious profession a Cameronian (roughly what is now a Covenanter), who followed the somewhat incongruous trade of a wheelwright and a blue dyer. His name was William Cuddy. An unseasonable jest cost him his life. He had been employed by somebody to insert a pane of glass in a leaden window-frame and while doing so he remarked jocularly that it would not be difficult to turn the lead into bullets. The remark was reported, and, at a critical time, more importance was attached to it than it deserved. He was forthwith tried by Court-Martial and condemned to die. From the Guard house, which was the Porter Lodge at the head of the avenue leading to the Rectory, the condemned man dressed in ‘his grave clothes, marched up the Street to the place of execution and as he passed along he sang a portion of the 52nd Psalm at the top of his voice. Rightly or wrongly, the unfortunate man blamed the Rector for being the cause of his death and those who listened to the weird music of his dying words were not slow to make application of the verse.”
“Why dost thou boast, O Mighty man
Of mischief and of ill?
The goodness of Almighty God
Endureth ever still.”
“As be stood at the place of execution the poor fellow once more declared his innocence, a fact that the whole neighborhood believed. Colonel Leith the Officer in Command, touched with pity asked him whether he would leave his case in his hands, which all around regarded as an offer of mercy. But the condemned, in the excitement of the moment and perhaps misunderstanding the words, replied that he would “leave it to a higher Power.” The officer understood this to be a rejection of his offer. He was forthwith hanged, but no further indignity was inflicted upon the body.”
I am strongly of opinion that Billy Cuddy was a United Irishman and as such refused to surrender his principles.
The Glebe house of the reverend Spencer Knox, rector of the parish, is adjacent to the town of maghera the house is simple but large and commodious. It was built in 1S24. The Board of First Fruits advanced 1,500 pounds, which sum was to be paid in yearly installments. More money was required for the completing of the building and it was given by the incumbent. The ornamental grounds are small and the planting, with the exception of a few fine trees, is young. But the grounds are tastefully laid out and kept in very good order. There is a good walled garden of about I acre and 1 rood. There was also the old glebe house was situated below the new, in the lane near the old church, and was built of stone and lime, the roof was shingled instead of being slated. There are many ghost stories here at the rectory, the rector Knox is supposed to haunt he grounds for example with this in mind I remember being told as a boy the tale about the horseman of the planting who wondered about the planting on moonlit nights looking for someone or something but one thing is for sure both stories are of a similar nature the planting being the old coach road, there are believed to be tunnel which runs from the rectory towards the old church, and now ladies and gentle men, this is as far as my knowledge and research can take us, the rector Isaac has most graciously and kindly aloud us a peek at his beautiful house and the walled garden. I would like to finish of by reading a small paragraph from my new book on the history of this town.
A history of maghera
In this sleepy hamlet of Maghera the history resounds in the walls and buildings of the old market town, if you walked down through main st you would never know the what the old town had seen in it’s day,
The town is steeped in the paradox of change from the sixth century to the present time.
In my own opinion the epicentre of the town is its old church St Lurachs, which is located beside Scott’s builders merchants at the bottom of Maghera Main Street, there it commands an impressive view of the town, once I climbed to the top of the tower to take a look and was mesmerized by what I could see, I imagined that there were no buildings and street’s all striped bare, only fields could be seen and my imagination ran riot what inherent beauty gently rolling hills and pastures with it’s stream glistening from the reflections of the sun and the trees.